November 29, 2007

Prof. Brian Wansink Chosen to Lead Nutrition Center at USDA

Print More

It is not unusual for a Cornell student to have taken part in an experiment conducted by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. Free food and a stipend are enough to convince most students to give up some of their time for the research, but many are unaware that the lab is well-known for its nationally acclaimed research.
In a sign of the lab’s success and acclaim, Prof. Brian Wansink, nutrition, creator and director of the lab, has been named executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
Nancy Johner, Agriculture Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services told the Cornell Press Office, “We feel quite fortunate in having Dr. Wansink join our team here at the USDA, and look forward to working with him.”
Wansink’s responsibilities at CNPP include overseeing the planning, development and review of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid. MyPyramid replaced the old Food Guide Pyramid in April 2005, and offers a personalized eating plan for people based on their unique traits.
The mission statement of CNPP reads, “The mission of the USDA CNPP is to improve the health of Americans by developing and promoting dietary guidance that links scientific research to the nutrition needs of consumers.”
Wansink will also oversee programs such as the Healthy Eating Index, the USDA Food Plans, the Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply and the cost of raising a child.
“The Center is involved in many crucial projects that have an immense potential to help the American public particularly in combating overweight and obesity,” Wansink stated in a press release. “I look forward to leading these endeavors to the best of my abilities.”
Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing, is a leading food psychologist. His work deals with the psychology behind peoples’ eating choices.
According to his website, he focuses on how advertisements, packaging and personality traits influence the usage frequency and volume of healthy foods.
He founded the non-profit Food and Brand lab at the University of Illinois in 1992, and it was moved to Cornell University in 2005. The main purpose of the lab is to help people eat more nutritiously and to also control how much they eat. The lab is also trying to encourage the consumption of more soy foods, fruits and vegetables.
Wansink received his Ph.D. from Stanford University, and prior to coming to Cornell, he has had academic appointments at Dartmouth College, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the US Army Research Labs, among other places.
“Dr. Wansink is nationally recognized in his field of nutrition research which focuses on how to encourage consumers to eat more nutritiously and better control how much they eat,” Johner said. “[His] work has been featured in national print and broadcast media.”
With more than 25 years of experience in nutritional science, food psychology, consumer behavior, food marketing and grocery shopping behavior, Wansink’s award-winning research has been published internationally. His most recent commercial publication, released in 2006, was Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. CBC News called the book “The Freakonomics of Food.”
According to the Food and Brand Lab’s website, some of the research that Wansink has been involved in has led to the introduction of the 100 calorie snack packages to help with overeating and the use of taller glasses in some bars to deal with over-pouring alcohol. His research has also contributed to the use of elaborate names in chain restaurant menus in an effort to improve consumers’ enjoyment of food.Wansink will still maintain his position as a University researcher here at Cornell while he serves as executive director of CNPP.
“I appreciate the opportunity to serve the President and the Secretary in this capacity,” Wansink said.